Bread – Ritual

August 20, 2012


Readings for Monday, August 20 designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Judges 17:1-13; Acts 7:44-8:1a; John 5:19-29; Psalm 106

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In Judge today, Micah has stolen 1,100 pieces of silver from his mother and returned it. She was so happy that she took 200 pieces of the silver, had them melted down, and had the silversmith make Micah a “carved image,” an idol. Micah took the idol and made a shrine for it, where it could be worshiped. He created a ritual around the image, made some saints (household gods) to go with it, created an order of priests to lead the worship, and ordained his son as first priest. To complete the creation of this religion, this ritual, and this liturgy, Micah took a Levite visitor, offered to support him for the rest of his life, and then made him a priest in the temple of the silver image. Micah then smiles, folds his hands, and says “Now I know the Lord will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest.” Judges 17:13 (I made up the smiles and folds his hands part.)

I almost don’t know what to say about Micah, except that he looks a whole lot like us. We take some part of our life, polish it up, set it on a pedestal, set up rituals to preserve it, get someone else to buy into it, and sooner or later adapt something from some other religion to give it legitimacy. And then we say, “now I know the Lord will prosper me” because I am now doing it the “right” way, with the “right” elements, using the “right” words, facing in the “right” direction, wearing the “right” clothes, with the “right” kinds of music, candles, incense, and procedure, with the help of the “right” people.

And sometimes, in making our ritual concoction, we borrow like Micah did from paganism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Socrates, and Wikipedia — whatever fits our style, mood, and inclination in the moment. Whatever seems right. As pointed out today in Judges about Micah, what “was right in his own eyes.” Judges 17:6b

Now, what ritual was observed in our other readings today? None. Stephen died under an avalanche of stones for proclaiming Christ and His vision of Christ at the right hand of God, after he had already observed that God does not dwell in houses made by hands. (Acts 7:48, 56) Christ talks about doing what He sees the Father doing, pronouncing simply that “whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life.” John 5:24 What ritual is in this?

Man wants ritual but he needs relationship. Man wants to do, but Christ calls us to believe and to be. Man looks at the stuff, the procedures, the words, the titles, and the clothes and sees value, the keys to the future. Christ says that seeing Him, hearing Him, knowing Him, and believing Him are the keys to the eternal life.

Who is right, Micah or God, me or Him? The choice is important, with eternal consequences. Choose wisely.

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© 2012 GBF

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